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Book Review: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Title: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
Author: Eric Ries
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (Sept. 13th 2011)
Genre: Non-Fiction: Business
Read: eBook
Stars: ****/5
Summary: (GoodReads)
Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched.

Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This is just as true for one person in a garage or a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom. What they have in common is a mission to penetrate that fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business.

The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.

Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs – in companies of all sizes – a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in a age when companies need to innovate more than ever.

My Review:

Now this book is really good for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses so I wasn’t really sure if I would find it helpful. I’m not yet an entrepreneur you see. 😀

But I did find it helpful in the work I do right now. Actually I think it would be helpful in almost all you do.

Ries says “The concept of entrepreneurship includes anyone who works within my definition of a startup: a human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”

This to me means an entrepreneur is someone who creates new products or offers services in conditions of uncertainty. But that is what I do at work and at home but I am do not have a startup. (well when I cook I work under a lot of uncertainties – my hubby’s mood, his appetite, the taste of the food… and my product is a tasty meal :D)

Ok seriously – Ries talks about a method of approach that will help make whatever you are doing better incrementally. Simply put he asks us to experiment while monitoring and accessing results.

Here are some of the things he talks about –

1. MVP or Minimum Viable Product – Once you have an idea, don’t wait to perfect it, just put together the idea in its minimum form and share it to see the response of people. That means you make the product better as you go along in small increments rather than waste your chance making something perfect that people don’t want.
This works in almost everything I do. I tend to spend too much time perfecting plans and realize now that breaking up the plan into small chunks and implementing each turn by turn will help the overall plan get much better. This way the overall plan can be fluid and change as and when required and I save a lot of time.

2. Metrics – Measure your experiments; approach them with a requirement, objective and outcome in mind. The key is learning with each trial and making sure not to make the same mistakes again. Don’t fall for vanity metrics that show great numbers for a while but deceive you in the long term. Choose your metrics based on what you want long term for your product and watch them like a hawk.
With each trial you should learn and make the next iteration better. Use a root cause analysis and go back atleast 5 levels when checking an issue. What makes you better than your competition is how little time you take in each iteration. The faster you learn, the better your product gets.

3. Pivot/Persevere – This is a neat concept. A lot of times I’m not sure if I should continue what I’m doing even though its not showing results because it seems like pay off is just round the corner. If my metrics are right and I have defined the outcome of the action I should know pretty soon if my activity is working or not.
This data from my trial is really helpful to decide whether to stop or continue. So I can pivot and try something different or I can persevere. Even if I persevere the metrics will help me fine tune and make the iteration better. Either way I save time and learn more. A pivot does not mean my idea failed, it just means I’ve found a better way to do it.

Ries puts across some really useful ideas through the book. My only complaint is his rambling. He rambles a lot in the book and especially a lot at the end. The book could have been shorter and I’d have been happier. I remember struggling towards the end to finish.

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